This is the face of depression.
I figured I’d start with that and get the icky feeling out of the way. You see, I talk a lot on social media about it being ok to not be ok, I’ve talked about grief and loss and disappointment, I’ve talked about anxiety.
But never depression.
I don’t like to think about depression. It makes me feel really uncomfortable. It’s 2021 and there is STILL a massive stigma surrounding mental health. I haven’t identified as someone who struggles with depression. I have bad days, sure, but I’ve always bounced back. Until recently.
In November I started feeling sad… like deeply sad, the kind of sad you don’t just slide back out of. I “coped” by avoiding all people, burying myself in work, and escaping into books and movies. I knew I was being affected by the darkness and chill of our prairie winter and the restrictions caused by covid, but I thought I’d just ride it out and in spring I’d be ok.
March arrived and I started going to the gym every morning plus walking 4-5km every afternoon. I loved moving my body and being in the fresh air. But two weeks in, I noticed that nothing was shaking the sadness. I was crying, a lot. I started feeling a lot of despair, around parenting and marriage and friendships. We started going to marriage counselling and while it helped us refocus our relationship, I started feeling like my flaws were suddenly overwhelmingly obvious and hopelessly irreparable.
One day I was driving to meet one of my closest friends for coffee – we hadn’t been together in 6 months – and I started crying so hard I could hardly drive. I stopped. I dialed my doctor and said, “I need to make an appointment.” When asked what my issue was, I hesitated. I still didn’t want to say it, but I did: “I’m not coping well mentally.”
I saw my doctor the next day. He walked me through a lot of questions. He made me feel safe, supported, and respected. He said, “You’re not alone. So many people are feeling this right now.” He explained that when we break an arm, everyone expects that we will take 6-8 weeks to heal. With depression, it’s not that different. It’s just as physical, needs at least as much time to heal; there’s just the added chemical aspect. So I’m taking medication now. I’ve always resisted that. But you know what? Deciding to take care of your mental health is really important. Admitting you’re not ok and taking next steps to reach out for help is not only not weak, it’s courageous.
I didn’t know if I would share this to the world. It feels a little – ok, a lot – TMI. But then I’m reminded of my unofficial mission: I help women feel less alone. I remember that every time I’ve gotten real and raw and vulnerable on the blog or social media, my inbox overflows with gratitude from readers who feel seen and heard. If sharing my story helps one person to take that next step to healing, then it’s worth getting a little messy. If you’re struggling right now and just want someone to talk to, I’m here and I’m happy to listen. I’m in the middle of this too. Together we can heal and grow.
P.S. Just because you see someone smiling and happy, on social media or in the grocery store, doesn’t mean they’re not struggling. Be kind, always. I’ve had many great days. Some days I think, oh I don’t really need this medication. I’m doing so well! No. You may have good days. You may have days you laugh uncontrollably and days you’re so happy to be alive. Depression isn’t always sadness 24/7. Be kind. Show compassion to yourself and everyone you meet. You have no idea what battles are being fought below the surface.